Friday, November 28, 2008

Meet an American Indian: Dennis Banks

As blacks folks had Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, Native Americans had Dennis Banks and his fellow militant radicals who, in 1968, formed the American Indian Movement (AIM).

The Black Panther Party had its Ten-Point Program. AIM put forth a 20-Point Position Paper, which included a request for more than 100 million acres of land from the United States.

AIM staged armed confrontations with the government. Most notable was the 1973 takeover of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. The U.S. government prosecuted Dennis Banks and Russell Means for leading this seige. A federal judge dismissed the charges after a nine-month trial.

But the state of South Dakota convicted Banks on riot-related charges for another incident – a protest gone wrong in a town called Custer.

Rather than go to prison, Banks spent nine years as a fugitive. He eventually turned himself in and served 18 months.

The American Indian Movement is still active... but split into two rival factions. Banks, an Ojibwa born on Minnesota’s Leech Lake reservation, is part of the “Grand Governing Council” faction based in Minneapolis (where AIM was founded).

Russell Means – now the most famous Indian activist in America – is a leader of the other AIM, known as the International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters of the American Indian Movement.

I’m streaming a 2-minute audio clip of Dennis Banks from 1982, when he was chancellor of D-Q University, a two-year tribal college in Central California (which is now out of business).

Click here to hear it on my Vox blog. You can stream or download the complete 5-minute radio piece by following this link to the Internet Archive.

Banks put his story on paper in a 2004 book titled “Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement.” (Russell Means’s autobiography, “Where White Men Fear to Tread,” was published in 1995.)

Banks also has a website under his Indian name – Nowa Cumig.

2 comments: said...

Hey there,

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thank you so much for this post on a warrior that many of us have not heard of.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Undercover Black Man said...

Thank you, Lisa. I hope you had a great holiday.